New Jersey has been given another extension as it tries to comply with a 2005 federal law governing security standards for driver licenses and other state-issued identification.

States were supposed to have complied by January. New Jersey was given a nine-month extension. In October, it was given another additional year, New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission chairman and chief administrator Raymond Martinez told the Assembly transportation committee Monday.

“We have no doubt that we are going to be able to be fully compliant by the end of next year,” Martinez said.

In states that don’t comply with the REAL ID Act, residents can’t use their driver licenses to enter federal facilities. Starting in January 2018, it will also affect whether a person can use their license as identification for boarding an airplane.

“So as long as we meet that deadline by the end of next year, then all New Jersey licenses will still be acceptable for boarding aircraft and whatnot,” said Martinez, who said people won’t need REAL ID-compliant licenses to board planes until October 2020, so long as their states’ systems comply.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, but states have had all sort of issues complying with it – some for technology reasons, some philosophically opposed to what they see as a national identification card.

In New Jersey, the problems are tech-based. Though the state has secure driver licenses, it’s hard to adjust its clunky mainframe system to meet some requirements, like allowing more than nine letters for a first name.

Martinez said any remaining issues will be addressed in time to avert problems for state residents.

“We will have that done by the end of next year. That’s what we have told the federal government,” Martinez said. “We are in good company. Most jurisdictions are in the same boat that we are.”

Almost half the states are in compliance with the REAL ID law, according to the Department of Homeland Security. New Jersey is one of 13 states with an extension to October 2017. Another four states have shorter extensions.

Three states’ licenses and ID cards are already not accepted, and another six won’t be starting at the end of January, including Pennsylvania.

Martinez said once the new system is in place, New Jersey residents will be able to choose whether to have a license that complies with the REAL ID Act. Such licenses will be specifically marked.

“We understand that some people won’t need it. They don’t think they’re going to need to go into a federal building or travel, or they may want to travel with their passport. So they’ll be given that option,” Martinez said.

An education campaign will be needed, Martinez said, because the state is also going to try to avoid having a surge of customers come in and obtain new licenses because they see REAL ID being instituted. People will have time to get replacement licenses.


New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.


Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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